Begaye addresses framework for Little Colorado River water rights settlement

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye met with Interior Department representatives Aug. 16, to discuss the framework for a settlement of Navajo water rights on the main-stem Colorado River and the Little Colorado River (LCR).

Also present at the meeting, held at the Office of the President and Vice President, were Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates and various Council delegates. Navajo leaders met with the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office (SIWRO), an agency that operates under the Interior Department.

The Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe have been negotiating water rights for the Colorado River and LCR for decades without substantial resolution.

“We’re ready to move forward on this and we have been,” Begaye told SIWRO officials. “Establishing Navajo water rights to the main-stem and LCR is critical to the future of the Navajo Nation. I’ve been advocating for water allocations for homes, businesses and tribal operations, and for funding to build a pipeline to provide water to communities in the Western Agency.”

In June 2017, the Udall Foundation provided mediation between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe to work toward agreeable terms in a settlement. Although the tribes were able to gain certain consensus on some issues, they failed to come to an agreement.

Begaye said the negotiation process is now back at square one.

“When it comes to LCR, we go full circle. We’ve come to this impasse before,” he said. “We have a good relationship with Hopi, but this is an area we can’t seem to agree on. However, when it comes to water rights and how they affect the future of our people, this settlement is paramount.”

Begaye said the SIWRO, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe need to consider alternatives in reaching a settlement.

“Maybe there is another way of looking at this. Yet still, Navajo is ready to move on with a settlement,” Begaye said.

Information provided by the Office of the President and Vice President

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